This paper argues strongly in favour of a re-examination of the term sustainability in international development research, policy and practice. It demonstrates that the term is understood pluralistically, being both environmental and economic.
With economic interpretations, this paper identifies three clear understandings of sustainability which effect programme design and, ultimately, their impact on poverty significantly. The paper argues that the ramifications of this definition go far beyond semantics and have a significant impact on the development outcomes realised by programmes that incorporate the term. Having evaluated these concepts, the paper argues for sustainability in development as being interventions which alter the causes of poverty so that the process through which change occurs is improved in an adaptive and permanent way; a permanent increase in adaptability. Evidence is drawn from a review of the literature and policy documentation.